English has always been in demand, but always at different levels. Someone needs to communicate at the level of "How much?", "Straight, now to the left" and "Bring the bill." This may be enough to enjoy your vacation, especially in a country where English is not mainstream. But there is another level - where English is not just a foreign language; it is both the language of money and the determining factor in the volume of investments, the size of the partner network and a marker of healthy communication in business.
To master the level "for travel", it is enough to go to courses or hire an intelligent teacher. Fortunately, the market offer is huge, and there is plenty to choose from. There are methodologies, textbooks, certified and honored specialists who promise to "pull up" your English to a decent conversational level. All language schools today confirm the client's result with a knowledge test. There are six of them, according to the standard classification: Beginner, Elementary, Pre-Intermediate, Intermediate, Upper-Intermediate, Advanced, Proficient. 85% of clients of Moscow language schools are people from Beginner to Intermediate level, i.e. the main query is "improve my English to good spoken language."
In Russia, the Intermediate level is considered good spoken language. Moreover, there is some unconscious reverence for those who have reached this level, as it means that they have comprehended the secret of English tenses and verbs. However, communicating with expats from Europe and the USA who work in Moscow and learn Russian, I see a different attitude towards levels. They say: "My Russian is still far from good, I don't understand a lot and I confuse everything, somewhere the level is Intermediate." And when I hear HOW they speak Russian, I understand the obvious difference between what we put into the word Intermediate and what they put into it. They really do not understand a lot by ear, read poorly, cannot express their thoughts clearly the first time, do not understand jokes and cannot joke themselves yet. They are aware of this and adequately assess their capabilities in communicating with carriers,including me.
Indeed, if you turn to the source - the international scale CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages), used to determine the level of language proficiency, the level of Intermediate on it is B1 and means the following: “At this level, you can participate in conversations on everyday topics, write and understand simple text, understand the general meaning of most meetings, lectures, TV programs and understand the general essence of a written document. " Agree, this description is far from being fluent in English? Only general meaning, basic topics and limited vocabulary. Nevertheless, Intermediate in Russia is sold as almost free, very high and admirable level.
Perhaps against the background of the fact that in Russia, in principle, very few people speak English, only 15% (as of February 2016), 10% of which are most likely concentrated in Moscow, Intermediate is really an achievement. But it is precisely because of this substitution of concepts that business suffers, the language of which is English of a completely different level.
The fact that the Intermediate level is not enough becomes clear only “in combat conditions” - when suddenly at an international conference you realize that you do not perceive the endless stream of English speech, and you need simultaneous translation. When 80% of the speakers at this conference are also not native speakers of English, like you, but they speak freely, and you are afraid to ask a question, because doubt: "have been" or "was". When you cannot agree on the terms of the deal at a meeting with foreign partners, because do not understand the essence of the sentence. When you have a conference call with the States, and their accent seems impossible to you, and the speed of speech is phenomenal, and you want to say every 2 seconds: "Please, slow down!" When you need to present sales analytics for the last quarter, and you tremble at the thought of speaking in English,even if you are a brilliant speaker in Russian. And when you are late for a meeting on a business trip, because you continue to stand on the platform, on which it was announced 3 times in English that there will be no train today … But you continue to stand, because do not hear.
«В учебных условиях» - на курсах и наедине с преподавателем этого не понять. Клиенты, которые ко мне приходят, обожглись на этом не раз. Я работаю исключительно с бизнес-аудиторией, с теми, кому нужен английский для карьеры, для возможностей, для выстраивания бизнеса, и я совершенно уверенно могу заявить, что уровень Intermediate – это синоним слова «посредственный». Абсолютно неприемлемое слово в бизнесе. Я это говорю сейчас не как преподаватель, а как человек, который сам вел и ведет ряд международных проектов, география которых включает в себя Англию, Швейцарию, Эмираты, Германию, Францию, США и Карибские острова.
English for Business is more than Intermediate and more than "levels". But a client who needs Business English doesn't realize this yet. He is looking for courses with an appropriate title and is influenced by a common perception pattern, where business English is a kind of formula: "Intermediate level and above + a set of words and expressions for business." It is believed that the language of business is a different, more complex, more formal language, and even the words are different there. These words and phrases, or rather, business clichés, make up the lion's share of business English course programs. However, the reality of meetings, negotiations and business lunches mercilessly confronts us with people who know a lot of words, but have not learned to communicate.
So what is English for Business, how to learn it, and how not to miss the mark in choosing a strategy? Over the past 5 years of training Russian-speaking top managers and key specialists of international companies, I have developed a number of principles that, I hope, will help you to reconsider your motivation, get out of the hackneyed rut of endless courses, teachers and free advice, and turn your learning process back on track …
Business performance is not measured by academic levels
The problem with the modern approach to teaching business English is that the results of clients are measured by levels. You come to courses to become more effective in business, and they begin to test you on the academic CEFR scale and give lists of useful phrases "for negotiations" or "for interviews". Upper-Intermediate level is not a guarantee of successful business communication. It is an academic term that no company in the world uses to measure the performance of its employees. Business performance is measured by sales, investment and satisfied customers. You need English to solve these specific problems, and not to take the tests for the highest score. Remember that your focus is on acquiring and honing your English communication skills, not practicing phrases, expressions and grammar out of touch with YOUR context.
Substitution of concepts: other standards in business
If the goal of a language course is to improve your language level, then the primary goal of using English in business is sales. It doesn't matter what you are selling or whether your position is sales related. As soon as you open your mouth and start speaking English, you start selling. If not a product, then definitely yourself as a professional. And let's clearly define the goal of a client who needs Business English - he most often wants to sell himself as a high-quality English-speaking professional, worthy of work at the international level and in an international team. And here comes the substitution of concepts. There is often a gaping chasm between what the client is actually looking for and what the school has to offer. Business English is taught from textbooks, where business is in the most general terms, and this is not always the business that you want to know anything about at all. Business English is taught by people who have never made a business decision, have not negotiated, have not been involved in active sales, have not seen what a financial statement or business plan looks like. They are great teachers - English. They teach by their own standards and don't understand yours. They teach English, which lives in a separate academic world, which must be taught by opening a textbook and fencing off from the outside world, which is already an unbearable task for a person who has more than 100 letters in his mail every day, a tender is burning, and 3 commercial offers on the table. They teach by their own standards and don't understand yours. They teach English, which lives in a separate academic world, which must be taught by opening a textbook and fencing off from the outside world, which is already an unbearable task for a person who has more than 100 letters in his mail every day, a tender is burning, and 3 commercial offers on the table. They teach by their own standards and don't understand yours. They teach English, which lives in a separate academic world, which must be taught by opening a textbook and fencing off from the outside world, which is already an unbearable task for a person who has more than 100 letters in his mail every day, a tender is burning, and 3 commercial offers on the table.
What to do?
Think about how many tasks you solve on the go during the day, how many emails you send from your phone, and how much information do you manage to process, again, just from your phone screen? Your English should also organically fit into your schedule, it should be “at hand”, on the phone, in the FB and Instragram feeds, in notes and messages. How to do it? To get started, switch your phone language, mail, browser, calendar and Outlook to English. You will automatically master a huge layer of vocabulary without much effort.
The language of business is skills. Training "on cats" does not count
Business English is often an intensive short course that provides you with a wealth of information and business vocabulary. But when the courses are over, and the routine and the flurry of calls and letters in English begin, you find that the words in your memory may have remained, but the skills are still missing. The goal of any training, according to Radislav Gandapas, with whom I agree, is to change human behavior. What does behavior mean when we are talking about business English? No matter how technological a business is, people do it. And the main goal of communication is to be able to negotiate with these people and build trusting relationships with them. And if we are talking about communication in a foreign language, the attitude towards it should be even more careful. Language is no longer just a collection of words, it is knowledge of the cultural expectations of the interlocutor, a reflection of etiquette, charisma and the manifestation of leadership qualities. I call this "linguistic techniques of success." The goal of English in business is to sell, but all things being equal, people buy from people they like and trust. The language must be used in such a way as to be able to please, to win over a foreign interlocutor and to inspire confidence from the first seconds of communication. And this is not achieved by bombarding the interlocutor with memorized phrases on the topic of "meeting"; you need a confident skill that you need to practice right away "in combat conditions", otherwise it is impossible to get high-quality feedback. In business English trainings, simulated situations are too far from reality. If it is exaggerated, in Business English courses, unit 7 of the Market Leader textbook offers you a "case" - negotiations between a football coach and a flower girl about how much ice cream costs. But in fact, German suppliers harass you,the amount of the transaction is over a million, and you can't be wrong. In other words, you cannot apply what you are teaching “in battle” - in real negotiations. It was this kind of customer feedback, when I was still teaching at a training company, “I don’t see how useful what you teach me is for ME” became the starting point for creating the UpSkillMe project. Business English for Ambitious Minds, where the work is based not on teaching aids that are in the arsenal of the teacher, but around the client's real tasks, his real presentations, sales plans and letters to the investor. Applying immediately in the real world what you get in the learning process, you do not have the feeling that you are wasting precious time on training, but there is specific feedback from colleagues, clients and partners; communication results turn into contracts and sums of money,and you no longer need to write a test to understand how far you have come. You watch your progress as you work. And that's when behavior changes - you start selling better and communicating more confidently.
Now, is it useless to learn words?
No, that's not my message. Just don't take what is not useful to you. If you see your learning as an aimless and endless journey into the world of irregular verbs and perfects, stop. Rebuild the route. Why do you need English? It seems that you have come for the skill of more effective interaction in business with English-speaking market players. This means that the verbs should be the ones that you need 10 times a day. So, your homework should be to prepare a sketch of the presentation in English, and not retell a topic about an amusement park in New York, write an answer to the customer, and not make 10 sentences from the proposed set of words about Mary and John. Learn the words YOU need that you can use right away at lunch, in response to the next letter, and on your next business trip. When English does not live a separate "academic" life,but has a practical value, there are no questions with motivation.
By the way, about motivation. I love working with people from the business world because they are very clear about where they want to go. “I need English to speak it fluently” - that's not about them. They need him to be interviewed for a new position, to make a worthy presentation in Stockholm, to finally conclude an agreement with the Netherlands and present a business plan to an investor in London. And this is usually what the plan looks like for the year.
Clients call my courses and trainings non-standard. These are people who have changed many teachers and attended all possible courses. However, with all the variety and variety of courses, they have not yet been able to satisfy their linguistic needs, and accordingly, they have nothing to take with them to their world of real business, where they need to negotiate very real money … It was for them that I created the UpSkillMe training center. Business English for Ambitious Minds.
Most language schools place an emphasis on "spoken English", proudly delivering Intermediate certified clients. And those who have already reached this level and realized that it is not enough, in fact, have nowhere to go. All offers of business courses end with the same analysis of all new grammar, learning more and more new words, maybe more trendy, slang, "business", installing mobile applications to learn even more words … But an easy change of scenery does not promise a breakthrough in learning …
A real need for those looking for Business English courses
Not words about business English, but technologies of doing business on an international scale in English. The world will not wait for you to translate the necessary words in your head, especially a world in which there are different standards of cooperation between people and different expectations from English language proficiency.
The UpSkillMe project emerged precisely as a response to the need of many professionals to use English for practical business purposes. There is not enough grammar and levels here, and a lot about technologies, practices and life hacks from the world of real business of an international scale, where there are unspoken rules and criteria for successful communication.
My teaching philosophy is very practical: each training should be aimed at the formation and development of a specific skill that you will not need someday, but tomorrow at the workplace.
What quality English language training looks like
I will tell you how training is structured at the UpSkillMe center, the model of which has been verified by years of practice and the specific achievements of clients.
- All trainings are 100% in English. You already know how to navigate the language, my task is to give you guidance in the world of successful business communications, where you need to make presentations to colleagues, answer calls and negotiate with people about real money. I also want to show that you don't have to live long in an English-speaking country to speak fluently and without an accent. Especially if you live in Moscow, where there are many foreigners. Business English training should take place in English so that you can immediately practice both listening comprehension and the skills to express yourself briefly and succinctly.
- Each training works out a specific skill. We do not have general English courses. I create trainings that help to solve very specific problems. For example, writing letters that sell; create an English-language website; speak to English-speaking colleagues or present a project to an English-speaking investor. I share exactly the technologies, how they work in English, how to use the language to your advantage to convince, sell, negotiate. By virtue of my profession, I can teach and know how the educational process is built from the inside, but I also understand how business processes are built, because she herself led a number of international projects. The fusion of teaching and business skills allows me to see more and deeper than someone from an academic career or the client himself.
- My team is practice carriers and business owners. I find it very important to learn from professionals, but not every native speaker is a professional. I invite to trainings English-speaking experts who are business owners, not teachers, and who can share very practical and useful technologies and insights. We now have cross-cultural communications specialists, networking masters, financial analysts and top-notch sales executives. Everyone can share their experience of doing business on an international scale in English, which a standard language school cannot provide.
- Lots of feedback. Any training always ends with the coach leaving, and a huge amount of information settles in the client's head. And, even if the training was very cool, fun and positive, it is not always clear what to do with this information. I always insist on feedback and post-training support as it is the feedback that motivates you to change your behavior and form a more sustainable skill. For example, after completing the training "E-mails that sell", you return to your workplace and within a week write letters to your real customers, but using the technologies obtained during the training. All this time, you receive a number of tasks, record the results, on the basis of which you receive feedback from the coach, who corrects further independent work. Within 2-4 weeks (depending on the training) you receive post-training support, because the goal of the training is to learn how to use the acquired knowledge in your daily work
- A lot of independent work. I am convinced that a coach is needed in order to teach a client to do without him. I participate in the client's life for several hours a month; he spends much more time alone with his habits. Self-employment is a prerequisite for being fully involved in the work to change the habits that drive you away from your goal. The motivation to do independent work is the opportunity to receive high-quality feedback, so everything is interconnected. I organize my work in such a way as to be in touch all the time. Between training sessions, clients send me voice messages, record video messages, report on the work done and share with those who do not have the courage to step over their line of comfortable existence. This greatly inspires all participants and changes the level of education very qualitatively,which goes on continuously and expands not only vocabulary, but also the potential of one's own capabilities and behavioral mechanisms.
- No tutorials. Business English textbooks, even from the most respected publications, rarely meet the needs of my clients. I don't have standard trainings that can be sold to any audience. It is very important for me to give a person what he came for, because there were already more than enough standard programs in his practice of learning a language, as well as textbooks passed from cover to cover. If I conduct a corporate training, I always find out in advance the position, responsibilities and main difficulties in the communication of the training participants, as well as their expectations from the training. Each training is created for a specific audience; the content is always copyrighted and is constantly being improved, because I do not stand still. Now it is unacceptable to use materials that are three years old or even one year old, unless they have gone down in history. The world is changing very quickly. What frustrates me the most is the Business English courses, which remain unchanged for years, regardless of the audience and the year of publication of the textbooks on which it was written.
How much do you need to study
You need to learn all the time, but set specific tangible goals at each stage. Process the feedback and move on. My trainings last from 8 hours to 2 months, depending on the tasks and the skill that needs to be developed. The main work for the client comes after the training, and therefore he definitely needs support and understanding that he is going in the right direction. This is usually indicated by the company's financial performance and reviews from English-speaking partners.
My advice to those learning English for businessand wants to change the course of his career to international - be ambitious, do not settle for standards that are too small for you, look for practical solutions and do not use what does not work for you. Do not learn words separately, learn to communicate. Go to meetings with foreigners, take time in your schedule to listen to another interview with your favorite actor in English, get into the habit of reading out loud in English, sing along with your favorite songs and get into one habit that you will now only do in English (for example, make a shopping list). Create your English-speaking space around you every day and turn it into a system, not episodic attacks. Decent English is not a super skill, it is just a skill that needs to be trained. As one wise man said, to learn to walk on his hands,you just need to walk on your hands.
Next time I will tell you how to choose the right way to learn a foreign language. Good luck! Your Natalia Tokar, upskillme.ru
Photo source: Getty Images
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